Can Unmarried Couples Living Together Claim the Head of Household if They Both Have Children?

No matter what your marital or parental situation, everyone wants to reduce his tax bill when filing taxes. Filing taxes as head of household can lower your taxes because of lower income tax brackets and a higher standard deduction than for single filers. Even if you’re living with a partner, you could both still qualify to use the head of household filing status.

Tip

As long as both individuals meet the requirements, including each having a qualifying child, an unmarried couple living together can both file as head of household.

Head of Household Rules

To file your taxes as head of household, you must be unmarried at the end of the year; you can’t be married filing as head of household. This includes being considered married under common law marriage in the state in which you live. However, as long as both are considered unmarried, an unmarried couple living together can each file as head of household as long as they meet the remaining criteria: Each spouse must also pay for more than half of the cost of keeping up a home. These costs include not only rent or mortgage interest, but also real estate taxes, home insurance, utilities and food eaten in the home. So, if you’re paying half the rent and other housing costs and all of the food costs for yourself and your child, you can still meet the requirement of paying more than half the costs of your household.

Understand Qualifying Child Rules

To file as head of household, each adult must have at least one qualifying child and it can’t be the same child for both people. A qualifying child must live in your home for more than half the year and must not have paid for more than half her own living expenses. A qualifying child must be under age 19 or a full-time student under age 24. If your child is married, she can be considered a qualifying person as long as you can claim an exemption for her.

Increased Standard Deduction in 2018

The rules for claiming head of household for the 2018 tax year haven’t change from 2017, but the standard deduction has increased substantially. The head of household standard deduction almost doubled to $18,000 in 2018.

2017 Head of Household Standard Deduction

In 2017, heads of household were entitled to a $9,350 standard deduction. Of course, if you itemize your deductions, the standard deduction increase won’t matter.

About the Author

Based in the Kansas City area, Mike specializes in personal finance and business topics. He has been writing since 2009 and has been published by "Quicken," "TurboTax," and "The Motley Fool."


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